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By Lisa Buscani

And we are out, on the street, in Brooklyn. The boyfriend and I pass our favorite Italian place that we're sure is Mafioso. The waiters look like they can serve up the specials, then dismember you and scatter the parts.

We stroll along as a cab pulls up and a man gets out. He's puffed up and overly manicured, but his hair and his clothes are completely out of time, like tradition is his life raft. Like he's down to just his heritage. He gets out of the street door and walks around to the sidewalk door, opens it and pulls his female companion out by her hair and dumps her to the ground. We hear her head crack on the curb. She moans belatedly like booze cushions it a bit.

She's at my feet, she's a lump, a tangle; and I say omigod because that's what humans say at moments like this. And the man whips around and says, "Shut up! Shut up! I will kill you, I will kill everyone who looks like you. I will kill your family."

And such is Brooklyn.

Brooklyn is like Chicago, minus the space. Emotion minus space usually means cruelty. Think of that one psychological experiment where they added more and more rats to the box, they just jammed more and more rats into the box and it wasn't long before the rats bit back, before they sank their teeth into a weaker neck to try and make their space. That's Brooklyn.

And the man heaves and stares at me, his companion moans and tries to rise and their cabbie wishes he was someplace else entirely. I feel the boyfriend take me by the elbow. Keep walking, Lisa, keep walking.

We walk past the precinct house in our neighborhood and I'm worrying and worrying the whole thing like a drooling bulldog with his mangled chew toy. Wondering, you know. What could we have done? There's a cop outside the building. He looks like a million guys in Brooklyn, brunette and all gut. But he'll stand up when you ask him to, that's why they pay him the big bucks. I ask him what we should have done.

He pulls on his belt. "Wait for us."

"But what if she's bleeding. What if he's beating her to death?"

"Wait for us."

"But what if."

"Wait for us. Look. If we don't like to take domestic calls, and we don't, we certainly wouldn't expect you to handle it. All you can do is call us and wait. You just have to wait."

I look across the street and see the woman from the cab, tottering in her six-inch pumps, whimpering and nursing her head.

"Ah jeez, here comes trouble," the cop says, like he knows her.

I do, too. I recognize her now, from around the neighborhood. She's a stripper when she's feeling legal, a straight-on sex worker when she's not. That's what they say, the boys in the wife-beater tees after they watch her walk by. They usually watch her a good long time.

Sex industry activists have started movements to change the way this woman is perceived. They see her as a woman empowered, a woman who recognizes her gifts and exploits them for all they're worth. She embraces her sexuality and is stronger for it. But the activists are rarely there when the power is revoked. Like tonight. That's where the cops come in. That's where you call and wait.

The cop looks at her and shakes his head. I tell him who she is and he says, "Yeah, Christine. That's the way she lives it. What can you do?"

Well, I'm thinking, you can haul your doughnut-puffy butt across the street and see if she's alright, you can see if she wants medical attention, you can see if she wants to file a complaint. And I'm waiting for that glorious feeling to crawl up my spine and blow out the top of my head. I want my anger with me when I give the man a piece of my mind.

But the cop watches the woman teeter down the street and I notice his shoulders sag. He puts his hand in his pockets and suddenly looks bone tired, like he's so weary he could cry. And I can't be angry with him. What can he do when someone he's responsible for keeps putting herself in harm's way again and again? What happens when his well of good will run dry? Sure, her protection is his job. But he can't give what he ain't got.

I keep walking. I don't feel angry. I feel a bit ashamed that my anger is such a finicky creature. I wish it would come on and take me someplace. Anyplace but here.


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